The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 14 June 2018

Portrait of the Week - 14 June 2018
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Negotiations over Brexit acquired an even stronger admixture of chaos and old night. Phillip Lee resigned as a little-known justice minister over Brexit, saying: ‘The 2016 referendum is detrimental to the people we are elected to serve.’ The government managed to reject in the Commons by 324 to 298 a Lords amendment on giving Parliament a ‘meaningful vote’ on a Brexit deal, after Theresa May, the Prime Minister, met rebels and promised that parts of an amendment by Dominic Grieve would be accepted. The white paper on Brexit will not now be published before the European Council summit later this month; warring cabinet ministers were invited to Chequers to discuss it. David Davis decided not to resign as Brexit Secretary after it was agreed that a backstop solution to the Irish border quandary (by retaining ties to the EU customs union) ‘will only be in place until the future customs arrangement can be introduced’, which the government ‘expects’ to be the end of December 2021. In any case, Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative on Brexit, said it was ‘difficult to see how’ the British proposals would ‘deliver a workable solution’. The Queen, it was announced, had a cataract removed in May.

The number of people in work reached an unprecedented 32.4 million; unemployment fell to 1.42 million. Poundworld, with 355 shops, went into administration. House of Fraser is to close 31 of its 59 shops; conditional on the restructuring plan is an agreement by the chain’s Chinese owners Nanjing Cenbest to sell a 51 per cent stake to the Chinese owner of Hamley’s, C.banner. An earthquake of magnitude 3.9, with its epicentre at Grimsby, struck Lincolnshire, with little effect.

Lady Wilson of Rievaulx, the widow of the Labour prime minister Harold Wilson, died aged 102. Teddy Johnson, half of a husband-and-wife duet with Pearl Carr, died aged 98. Danny Kirwan, the guitarist sacked from Fleetwood Mac in 1972, died aged 68. Peter Stringfellow, the nightclub owner, died aged 77. Nirav Modi, the Indian jeweller, was reported to be in London seeking political asylum.


President Donald Trump of the United States shook hands for 12 seconds with Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea, in front of flags of the two countries at Sentosa island in Singapore, before a 40-minute tête-à-tête and further talks with officials. Mr Trump told the press: ‘I think he trusts me, and I trust him.’ The two men signed a document in which Mr Kim ‘reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula’. It made no mention of verification, though Mr Trump later said that it had been agreed; he also said that America would stop joint military manoeuvres with South Korea. For the time being, US sanctions against North Korea would continue. ‘Well, he is very talented,’ Mr Trump said of Mr Kim. ‘I don’t say he was nice.’ For lunch Mr Trump was given a choice of prawn cocktail and beef ribs or octopus with stuffed cucumber and cod with radish.

Earlier, after Mr Trump had seen on television Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, saying, ‘Canadians will not be pushed around,’ the US President repudiated a joint statement by the G7 (whose meeting in Canada he had just attended). Mr Trump called Mr Trudeau ‘very dishonest and weak’. ‘This was a difficult summit,’ Theresa May reported back to Parliament. ‘We expressed deep disappointment at the unjustified decision of the United States to apply tariffs to steel and aluminium imports.’ Online media took much interest in the resemblance to some Baroque-era painting of a photograph by Jesco Denze, the German cabinet’s official photographer, showing Mr Trump seated with arms crossed and Chancellor Angela Merkel leaning down confronting him, surrounded by other leaders.

A charity, SOS Méditerranée, in a ship that it operated with Médecins Sans Frontières, picked up 629 migrants from inflatables off Libya over the weekend, but was refused permission by the new coalition government in Italy to land them there; Spain accepted the migrants, who were to be taken to Valencia with the help of Italian ships. In Afghanistan, the Taleban, having killed over 60 members of the Afghan security forces in one day, declared a ceasefire for Eid al-Fitr. Tesla said it planned to cut its 37,000 workforce by 3,000. CSH